Three Key Trends Overheard at the 2018 Upfronts
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Brian Wallach
By Brian Wallach,
SVP, Chief Revenue Officer, FreeWheel Media

Memorial Day Weekend signified the start of summer, and in the TV buying community it also means the start of negotiations as the Upfront presentations come to a close. While there’s a lot of work to do, we think this is an incredibly exciting time to be in the TV industry. Change is afoot, with more high-quality programming being rolled out to feed the desires of fragmented consumers. Marketers’ quest for engaged audiences is directly influenced by consumers’ demand that brands and content experiences meet their ever-higher expectations. Despite shrinking budgets and inventory scarcity, advertisers know there is no better platform to engage with consumers at scale than TV.

Here are three key trends we observed over the past few weeks at the various Upfront presentations which will surely make for an interesting negotiation.

The More Things Change, The More Audiences Want it To Stay the Same

Feeding off of the ratings success of resurrected shows, Roseanne (though just canceled despite its popularity) and Will & Grace, it’s no surprise that publishers are looking to replicate this strategy by going back into the content archives to see what else can be dusted off to draw audiences again. Or looking to the pool of discarded shows from other networks to see what’s worth picking up. Soon you’ll see old favorites like Murphy Brown, Magnum P.I., Last Man Standing, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine back on the TV Guide or on a new network. It will be interesting to see how these shows do on VOD as well.

Hoping that nostalgia entices viewers to tune in, publishers are reinvigorating content that aims to serve as the great unifier: old and young coming together. This concept is also being replicated by Netflix with Fulller House and Hulu’s attempt to introduce younger generations to classic shows like Frasier and Cheers.

“[Murphy Brown] was a show ahead of its time… and that time is right now.” – Kelly Kahl, CBS Entertainment president

The Value of Trust

The past year has dealt both consumers and the industry at large several blows when it comes to trust and brand safety. Publishers continue to remind buyers that TV and premium video are inherently viewable, brand-safe, fraud-free and immune from the issues that have been plaguing other platforms.

“At NBCUniversal your spot always, always, always runs next to safe, premium content. A lot of companies simply can’t guarantee that. But we can and we do. So is TV a big investment? You bet your ass it is. Like I said, we’re in the results business. We’re also in the wow business.” – Linda Yaccarino, chairman of advertising sales and client partnerships at NBCU

Programmers are doubling-down on investing in quality content that attracts the right consumers that marketers and brands want to target with the right message. Then they are offering up that content on platforms beyond the traditional TV that offers marketers the trust, transparency and scale they need in a world where bots, fraud, and unsafe content must be avoided.

Measurement, Delivery, and Currency Continue to Evolve

Publishers continue to drive innovations on the delivery and measurement of ads—a major sticking point for advertisers as the viewing landscape becomes more complex. For example, NBCU has announced CFlight, which measures “all screens and co-viewing and complete viewing—not 1.7 seconds of a half-viewable ad with the sound off,” the digital advertising standard. Disney’s new advertising product, Luminate, offers marketers data-based targeting across Disney’s brands including ABC, ESPN, Freeform and the Disney Channels. And Fox is now offering the JAZ pod consisting of just two 30-second commercials, a “high impact, low clutter” solution.

“These will be among the most powerful ads in television. I promise these ad reductions will be a lot more noticeable to viewers than some other commercial reduction plans. And we’re just getting started.” – Joe Marchese, Fox president for ad revenue

Currency is still the biggest sticking point, we need to expand beyond the role of age and gender and think about audience.  But even if we agree on how we define different audiences, how do we value that inventory? The industry hasn’t made a major measurement change in 11 years. Advertisers have to value that appropriately for this ecosystem to continue.  If they do, the entire industry will win. 

In an industry transformed by innovation and creativity on a daily basis, the pendulum is in full-swing back to TV. TV is the great unifier: creating experiences for advertisers and connections to real audiences, and proving results, at scale. We believe there’s only one thing that matters: results for marketers. Through our open ecosystem, partnership-based approach, and audience-buying solutions, television will continue to thrive.

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